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A Post-It Note From God

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As I rushed out of the house at 9:00pm last night on the way to the hospital, I didn’t think to take a Bible with me.  By the time it crossed my mind, it was too late to turn back for it.  How could I not grab my Bible!?  Ugh!

Stopping to fill the car with gas and grab a coffee for the long night, I sent a text to some brothers in the faith asking for prayer.  My phone almost dead and my access to a digital Bible thus limited, I had no written Word of God to take with me so I also asked for some Scripture to share.

Praying for the 45 minute drive downtown to comfort a friend in his hour of need, I asked God to reveal to me what to say.  I asked for SO much in that time.  I asked…and asked…and asked some more.  I praised, and I glorified.  I sought Him, and I sought His Word.  I sought to recall it, knowing I would have to rely on my weak memory alone to speak Truth into the lives of a family hurting in the dark hours of the night. 

Stepping out of the car at the hospital, I looked at my phone, on its last minutes of battery life, to see the texts from the brothers praying for the situation and the various Scripture references they pointed me toward.  And I prayed, “if only I had a Bible with me.” In that instant, it’s as if God whispered directly in my ear “look in the back seat.” Finding NE’s children’s Bible, I laughed and praised God for it…and then walked inside.
Isn’t it awesome how He provides exactly what we need when we need it!

Hours later, as midnight approached, I opened it and read through some Psalms.  In turning to find what I was searching for, I turned too far and landed right dab on Proverbs 15, and this.  
Proverbs 15 This.  A post-it note written by my son in his newfound faith, as he seeks to know his God better…seeks to know the Jesus that died for him in a deeper, more intimate way.  This was the calming voice I needed to remind me that I don’t have to have all the answers when life happens.  

Because I don’t.  And I never will.  But I know who does.  He’s the Jesus/God of the Bible.  And I love Him …and His Bible!  Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me through my son.  And thank you, son, for being faithful in your quest for Him.  In your youth, you are witnessing to those around you (i.e. me) more than you know.

Love,

Dad

Lord, help me lead him and his brother in YOUR ways.  Help me to die to self so that I may live for you.  Guide me as I guide them.  Let them see you in me, and let them follow you, not me.

Amen

Open Your Eyes and Be a Blessing

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This morning’s time with God was challenging.  As are most of the conversations we have in which I actually talk less and listen more.  From 1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.  So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free.  But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.  If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body?   If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear?  Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.  How strange a body would be if it had only one part!  Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.  The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’  The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.  And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care.  So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,  while the more honorable parts do not require this special care.  So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.  This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”

As I read the last portion of that (the section I’ve highlighted) and allowed God to speak into my life this morning, He pricked my heart with more questions than answers:

  • “How well are you caring for the ‘less honorable‘ members of the body?”
  • “How caring are you toward those with ‘less dignity?'”
  • “How protective are you of the “weaker” members?”
  • “What are you doing to protect them?”
  • “How are you showing them honor?”
  • “How are you loving them?”
  • “How available and willing are you to humble yourself?”

What I’ve determined in this examination is that:

  •  There is no “less honorable“, “less dignified“, or “weaker” in His eyes.  These are our labels, as verse 22 so clearly demonstrates,

“In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”

  • I am too often consumed with serving God, wrapped up in the details of a to-do list, that I am focused on the wrong things.  Too often, the blinders come on, the tunnel vision sets in, and I see only what’s right in front of me…a to-do list.  I’m much too task-oriented when I should be relationship-oriented.

My prayer today, “Lord thank you for opening my eyes and heart to my shortcomings in this area of my walk with you.  Please forgive me these failures, Lord.  Continue speaking truth into my mind and life through the Spirit.  You created me with the ability to bring order out of chaos and to provide structure and organization where it otherwise wouldn’t be.  I believe you alone have the power to mold me into a person who is relationship-oriented who can also use his task-oriented gifts to your glory.  Claiming your promise in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you“, I pray according to your will that you open my eyes to those around me and allow me to be a blessing in someone’s life today.” Love, Dad

There’s a Onesie in the Rescue Pack

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In September, 2001 I was just five months into my initiation to the fraternity called fatherhood.  Like millions of Americans, I watched live as the the second plane crashed into that tower, and I knew instantly…that our lives would never be the same.  In the months following the  attack on our country, being a father took on a completely new meaning for me.

For starters, I reevaluated my faith and my commitment to God.  I recommitted my life to Christ and vowed to raise my family in the shadow of His Word.  Quite literally, a life-altering turn for me that continues to have ripple effects as I see my children growing closer to Jesus as they navigate their own faith walk.

On a lighter note, I began preparing our family for survival during and after an emergency.  There’s a saying in the emergency services field, that really is sound advice with many life applications.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

This was back in the days when SD was still a toddler navigating preschool.  She was really into the cartoon “Go Diego Go”, and our favorite character was (and still is if you asked me today) “Rescue Pack”.

Diego Rescue Pack

Diego’s Rescue Pack

Able to change into anything Diego needed at any given moment…”a parasail or kayake…a zipline, a snowboard…whatever you need“, Rescue Pack had our back.  So it seemed logical explaining to a 4-year old toddler that the backpack I was setting up as our emergency “go-bag” was our “Rescue Pack”.  And so it’s been called ever since, even as it grows into multiple bags to accommodate a growing family.

I knew it’d been a while since I’d updated it, but I hadn’t realized it’d been this long…

boys, not babies anymore

Back when they fit in the palm of my hand

Yes…the last time I opened the bag packed with extra changes of clothing for every member of the family, you both apparently were able to fit in Onesies.  Arguably, I could hold you one-handed back then.  What a nostalgic afternoon last week held for your mother and me as we looked through that bag.

You’re both growing so fast that it’s all I can do to hold on to and embrace each moment as it comes.  Because one moment lends to another and another.  The moments in your lives are coming and going so fast.

There’s a duality to the mind of a parent that I pray you are able to experience one day.  In my mind, you will always be my little men, just learning to walk as you climb up onto my lap to rest your body on my chest for an afternoon nap.  At the very same time, I’m able to see you as the men you will become…boldly and courageously living out your faith as men of God with careers, wives, and children of your own.  It’s that duality that allows me to love you in the moment…while raising you to become the men God is calling you to be.  There will always be the dad in me who misses those days when I could hold you in the palm of my hand…and there will always be the dad in me who anxiously awaits the man you will become. The challenge is striving daily to recognize you for who you are now…young men navigating a world unlike the one I experienced at your age…and to not take one second for granted.

Really, this was just a fun opportunity to look back and write you to simply tell you that I love you…more and more every moment I am blessed to be in your lives.

Love,

Dad

My god was not my God

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I have come to realize I can’t go a day without it.  It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and while I haven’t touched it yet, I Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It.

Like, really can’t stop obsessing with how good it’d feel right now.  It’s over on the kitchen counter staring at me menacingly.  Calling me.  Beckoning me to come partake.  It knows I can’t function without it.  It knows!  It’s just sitting there…tempting me with the reality that the fog I’m in right now would go away almost instantly.  With just one cup.

Yes, I’ve come to realize it’s time for a change.  When I’ve become so reliant on something as small as a cup of coffee, I’ve become reliant on the wrong thing.  And I’ve been reliant on the wrong thing.  That’s not easy for me to admit, but there it is.

It’s the second Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” – Exodus 20:3, yet there it is staring me right in the face.  Coffee has become my god.  As I sat down to write this note, I honestly didn’t think I’ve put coffee before God.  I haven’t, have I?  Well, let’s see…

It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning.  Before my Bible and before my time with God.  Really, the two go together so well in the morning… a cop of coffee and the Word.

coffee and the Word

a little coffee and a whole lot of Word

But the coffee…oh how the coffee gets me through it.  Wait!  It “gets me through it?”  WOW!  Yeah…it’s time for a change.

I’m thankful that my God is bigger than my coffee.  Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God.  It’s time to demolish this stronghold in my life.  With the Helmet of Salvation, I am claiming the mind of Christ as I thank Him that I am His child and praise Him for my eternal life.  I’ve affixed the Breastplate of Righteousness, asking God to search my heart and reveal the wickedness hidden within it.  I’ve confessed my sin and am claiming Christ’s righteousness to cover my sins.  With the Shield of Faith, I am claiming the victory and advancing in faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Mark 11:24).

I am claiming victory in this through Christ.  My coffee is my god no more.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Ironic that immediately after posting this, I place a link to this note on the Decaf Dad page.  God really is good all the time.

My Kids and Oxen…Getting Dirty. Yes, I Went There.

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I almost missed it again this morning.  I’d skipped right through it and was two verses past it when I quite literally heard the Spirit of God whisper in my ear, “go back and read that again.”

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” – Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

I’ve read this particular verse in Proverbs probably a hundred times or more and missed it every time.  After a few minutes reflecting on that verse, I was left with more questions than answers:

“What am I doing to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom?  I mean what am I REALLY doing?  Am I living in a way that reflects Christ living in me to those around me?  How dirty am I willing to get to do the work God’s called me to do?”

Planting, sowing, tilling and harvesting a crop is dirty work.  And yet, we are called to it…put here on Earth to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom…to bring Him glory in everything we do…to point the lost to Him.

“‘Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.  It was I who created them.’” – Isaiah 43:7 (NLT)

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

Spoiler alert!  The lost aren’t generally in the most pristine and cleanest of places (by our standard of clean anyway).

In actuality, our first priority in reaching the lost should be in our homes.

As parents, we’re on the front lines doing battle to win the hearts and souls of our precious little ones for God.  And make no mistake moms and dads…it IS a battle.  A battle that takes place both in the spiritual realm between God’s angels and the forces of evil…and a battle that takes place in the physical realm between us and the influences a fallen world has on our children.  As we seek to hold our children close long enough to instill in them Godly character and moral truths, Satan is working overtime through the world around us.  He is working to pull them farther from our reach into a cycle of sin that can only be broken when they truly realize and accept their brokenness and complete dependence on God.

Dads, as a father of three boys and a special needs girl, I can assure you that raising kids is messy work.  I get it, I know.  It’s emotionally cluttered and chaotic…littered with drama.  Drama we don’t like and would just assume avoid every chance we get.  I mean honestly guys, who among us wouldn’t “rather be fishing”?  Fatherhood is heavy-laden with emotional turmoil and baggage that wears us down…leaves us inpatient and unkind.  It’s scary and often times traumatic.  It’s heartbreaking and gut wrenching.  It’s late nights and early mornings…with sleepless nights in between.  And that’s just the emotional side.

It’s just as physically relentless and cluttered.  You show me a dad who’s never navigated the minefield of Legos and Hot Wheels, and I’ll show you ten more with the battle scars to prove otherwise.  For the mom reading this, when you look at the living room littered with toys, the couch covered in Cheerios, the syrup-covered dining room floor, the endless loads of laundry, the kitchen sink overflowing with the day’s dishes, the bathroom you wouldn’t let a stranger use, let alone a close friend who stops by unexpectedly, the ransacked-looking bedrooms and kids running around half-dressed with bubble gum stuck in their hair…have faith that “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”

You WILL one day wake up to a clean house with no laundry to wash, no dishes to clean, no floor to mop, no bathroom to sterilize, no toys to pick up.  No giggles to enjoy.  No children to play.  For the dad reading this.  You wanna make an impact in your kids’ lives?  Don’t let mom be the one to do all the dirty work.  Let’s man up and get in the trenches with her in managing the homestead, eh?

Because like it or not, we are right where we are called to be…whether we’ve fully accepted the role or not.

“Children are a gift from the LORD;  they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.  How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!  He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” – Psalm 127:3-5 (NLT)

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Do you see it?  To get an ox to plow the field and do the work that’s hard, it has to be trained.

“It’s easier to train oxen when you start when they’re babies.  In addition to being smaller and easier to handle, you gain their trust and respect from the beginning.  They’ll trust you and your judgment just as they would trust their mother.  If you are careful in how you handle them (never abusing them, but never letting them get away with anything) they respect your dominance and will not challenge your authority when they are older and much bigger”  (excerpt from “Training Oxen: Start with Calves” by Heather Smith Thomas via http://www.countrysidemag.com)

The ox doesn’t become strong after one planting season.  It takes many seasons to develop its strength.  It has to be trained, and then only after years of training is it strong enough to do the work well.  Much like an athlete who has spent years training for his sport, the ox is stronger for having endured the training.  Likewise, our kids are being trained.

The question we have to ask ourselves as their father is, “who’s training them?”

Are we training them for the work God will soon call them to?  Or is the world training them to resist Him?  Are we preparing and equipping them for success on the front lines for God?  Or is the world preparing them to rebel against Him?

As dads, we have to be on the front lines in the mud with them (mostly figuratively, though many times literally).  We lead from the front, not the back.  To win their hearts and minds, we have to be involved.  Engaged.  Committed.  Standing steadfast and consistent.  Intentional in our actions and words.  Every. Single. Day. Without fail.  There are no breaks in fatherhood.

It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen this week, this month, or even this year.  Through many years of training, though, they will grow stronger.  They will come out the other side stronger for having endured it.  Stronger spiritually.  Fully reliant on God.  Through our consistent love (which is more than affection…it includes discipline, but that’s a note for another day), we will have reaped a harvest in our children.  A harvest that will go forth and reap another harvest when it’s their time.  The question that remains is, “how messy are we willing to get?”

What we’re called to do isn’t easy, by any definition.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.  And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” – Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

We’re being asked to work in the mess without getting messy.  To work the field without getting any of the field on us.  To be in the dirt without getting dirty.  How is that possible, you ask?  Only by the power and grace of a God who loves us enough to get messy for us.  It’s by the blood we’re kept clean and holy.  Even when we fail.  It’s by the cross we are found pure in God’s eyes.  It’s by the Son we can do all things.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I’m gonna go jump in the dirt.  Who’s with me?

Love,

Dad

If Not You, Then Who?

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Son,

If yesterday’s note wasn’t sufficient to caution you to the emotional turmoil that comes with the job of a firefighter, let me be clear in helping you see that.  Not to bring attention to myself or the battles I face, nor to glorify myself at all.  Not for any other reason than out of a desire that you never have to say “why didn’t someone warn me?”

The job has its rewards, there’s no argument there.  But…

One day you’ll wake up at 2am and find a teenager impaled on a guardrail, blood still dripping from his body after having been ejected from the vehicle…head crushed from going through the windshield…brain matter lying on the ground beneath him…while his “friend” sits on the curb laughing as if nothing happened because he’s too drunk to know he just killed his friend. Your frustration will seem more than you can bear. You’ll want to beat some sense into him, but you’ll bite your tongue and try to forget. You won’t be able to.

One morning while your breakfast sits on the table waiting for your return, you’ll hold the hand of a woman whose husband lies dead on her living room floor…your hand still sweating after having spent the last hour pumping on his chest…the feeling of his ribs crushing under the weight of your thrusts still fresh on your mind.  You won’t have the stomach to finish breakfast when you get back.

One night you’ll crawl on hands and knees searching with gloved hands through a darkness you can’t see through for a man who’s trapped in his home as it burns down around you.  You won’t find him in time, and you’ll be forced to leave him…only to realize later that unbeknownst to you, he had already burned up and you were crawling all over the top of his burned corpse…his melted skin now covering you, hanging from you like the memory of that night will hang with you…forever haunting you. The smell will be like you never expected…the memory of that smell will ruin many future meals for you.

One beautiful, sunny, warm morning you’ll send your own kids off to school and come to work.  Your first call of the day will be a seven year old boy who’s just been run over by the school bus, his body split wide open from gut to knee.  Still alive, the look in his eyes as you scoop him into your arms will haunt you until the day you die.  You’ll know you did all you could for him, but even knowing that is not enough to keep his mother’s screams and the cries of his friends on the bus from jolting you from your sleep fifteen years later.

Some day you’ll have to experience worse than all that.  Things that can’t be described.  Things that you’ll have to bury deep in the recesses of your own mind just to keep moving forward.  Things that can’t be shared with someone outside of the brotherhood who’s lived it with you.  You’ll hear people say your job is great, that the schedule is nice and the pay makes it worth it.  To that, you’ll force a fake smile, grit your teeth and just walk away…because it’s just not worth it.  You’ll  want to say, “yeah, it’s got its good days, but here…let me dump a career’s worth of memories from the bad days on you and we’ll see how great you think it is then.”  But you won’t.  Because the people who’ll say those things to you don’t know…and they’ll never know.

It’s a rewarding career whose rewards come at a price.  If you’re willing to pay that price, then follow your dreams.  If your wife is willing to pay the price alongside you, then follow your dreams.  If your wife is half as selfless and loving as your mother, then you’ve got a great head start in getting through your career with your sanity intact.  With God leading you and Jesus walking with you, you’ll have what you need to survive it.  I honestly don’t know how someone without Jesus can do it.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s got its good days too.  You’ll watch a man die right in front of you and you’ll have a hand in bringing him back to life.  You’ll carry a woman out of a burning building and hand her off to medics while you run back in to put the fire out.  You’ll hold a lifeless child and be the hands of God that breath life back into her.  You’ll do lots of good things that go unnoticed and unrewarded.  And that’s fine…because you won’t be doing it for recognition.  You’ll be doing it knowing what you got into.  You’ll be doing it because not everyone can.  You’ll be doing it because the guy next to you is counting on you.  You’ll be doing it because if not you, then who?  And that’s why we do it.

Love,

Dad

Future Firefighter, firefighting boys

Future Firefighters

What Do You See?

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What do you see when he passes you, red lights flashing and siren blaring as he clears a path to his destination? Do you see the pain and suffering he will see when he gets there? Do you see it? No? Open your eyes…it’s there.

It’s a darkness that swallows him, pouring over his soul like a raging sea.

It tosses him back and forth, churning him up in a blender that’s mixed with all the pain and sorrow he bears witness to.

He tries to escape the fury of its wrath,
but its grip on him is unrelenting. It crushes his soul and takes away his breath.

He’s sinking into the pits of a darkness that won’t let him go. The raging fire that engulfs his once vibrant, green and thriving soul leaves in its wake the charred remains of destruction and death…each memory of the terrors that haunt him as fresh today as the day they first burned him.

Oh, how the memories that haunt him are more than he can bear. At night they startle him from his sleep in a cold sweat that finds him grasping for breath and fighting to break free from the chains that bind him. At dawn, there is no reprieve as they follow him throughout his day, lurking around every corner and down every path…a constant reminder that they will follow him all the days of his life. His heart grows callous to protect him from the pain of it.

He had no warning, no friend to say “wait!” No idea that what he once loved would become something to hate.

Every day, people pass him by and utter under their breath, “he’s got it made. His job is easy. He’s well paid.”

If only they’d stop and explore his eyes…it wouldn’t take long at all for them to realize

He’s begging for mercy, crying out from the pits of his own hell, “Someone help! Throw me a rope. Where is my hope?”

Is there no reprieve for this man? No light at the end of his present darkness? No one to offer him hope? Will no one come to his side and offer to save him from this misery? Who is able?

I claim Your promise in Psalm 121 today, Lord. I lift my eyes up. My help comes from you LORD. I reach for Your outstretched arm and grasp it with what little life I have left in me. Pull me from these depths LORD. I long so deeply to embrace You and rest my weary head on Your shoulder. What is seen and felt now is temporary. Come now and bring me home.

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